Skip to main content

Madison’s streets were named after early U.S. revolutionaries

November 7, 2018 By Parker Schorr

In Philadelphia, streets at right angles to Delaware street are named after American trees. In Washington, some streets are named after the states to which they lead. In Madison, nearly every major street was named after a signer of the Constitution. You can thank James Doty, a land speculator and politician from the early 1800s, for that. Seemingly obsessed with the Constitution and its signers, he set about commemorating his “imaginary city” with street names. Even Madison itself, named after the former President James Madison, bears the name of one of the founders of the U.S.

Below are six of the most famous streets in Madison and their namesakes.

Mifflin Street

A portrait of Thomas Mifflin

Thomas Mifflin

What would Thomas Mifflin, a Pennsylvania Quaker and major in the Continental Army, have thought if he knew a street named after him was home of a notorious block party? He might have been cool with it, considering he was a big spender and even had a dramatic tiff and falling out with George Washington. Although he died disgraced and in poverty, he will be remembered as the President of the Continental Congress, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and the namesake of one of the most rowdy parties of the year.

Langdon Street

John Langdon was a “fiery patriot,” an early proponent of revolution and a successful merchant. Before the Revolution, he even managed to steal a stock of British munitions. By the age of 22, he was commanding a fleet of ships across the world despite little education. He would eventually become a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, traveling with his pal and fellow delegate Nicholas Gilman (who is also commemorated by a street in Madison.) A real friend, he covered Gilman’s ticket to the event.

Bassett Street

A portrait of Richard Bassett

Richard Bassett

Although the Wisconsin Historical Society put Richard Bassett on blast, saying he was “perhaps the least remarkable of the signers … He showed up all the time but made no speeches, served on no committees, and cast no critical votes,” he holds a special place in our hearts. After all, his name gave us the Bassett Street Brunch Club, which in turn gave us the menu item “Toastest with the Mostest.”

Dayton Street

Jonathan Dayton was the youngest signer of the Constitution. By age 19, the time most of us were finally mastering how to do our own laundry, he was a captain. Although he was indicted for treason after trying to create an empire with Aaron Burr in the Southwest – oops!

Washington Avenue

George Washington, baby!

Johnson Street

For a signer of the Constitution, William S. Johnson was very relatable. He was torn between his loyalties to America and his ties to Britain. So next time you’re stuck in traffic on East Johnson and are frustrated that it takes like 15 minutes to cross State Street, just remember that you’re feeling the same thing Johnson was over 200 years ago.